SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For several games last year, the Santa Barbara Dons had the look of a playoff team. But they came up short of the postseason after a 6-4 regular season.
This is JT Stone's third year at head coach of the Dons and he is hoping that the team continues to make progress.
The Dons were 4-6 in his first season and improved by two games in 2015.
Gone are offensive stars such as quarterback Brent Peus, Mason Bigelow and Blake Kelley. Hard-hitting linebacker Junior Garcia has also graduated.
However the Dons have plenty of talent returning in 2016.
Free safety Jeremiah Nicholson will now start at quarterback and he brings a good arm and athleticism to the position. Tic Jellison is back from a late season injury and he could easily be an All-Channel League receiver.
The Dons offseason weightlifting program has paid off on the offensive line where the four returning starters are bigger and stronger.
Santa Barbara says they are also concentrating on fundamentals such as solid tackling which is something that the Dons struggled with last season.
Santa Barbara will have to be road warriors as they play all but three games away from Peabody Stadium which was suppose to be closed this year but construction has been delayed.
The Dons open at Saugus on Friday at 7:30pm.
If the defense improves and Nicholson can lead the offense like they think he will, the Dons may get to break out their Golden Tornado jerseys, used only for the playoffs.